While some may disagree with me, I have always felt that the first generation Toyota Matrix was revolutionary. It was a small vehicle that offered tons of utility in an edgy, sporty package at a time when Toyota wasn’t known for being overly daring. In fact, shortly after Toyota launched the Matrix, I became the service manager of a Toyota store and spent 3 months driving one. Not long after, my step father bought his own dark blue XR model. I have recommended the Matrix to more consumers than I can count. When the 2nd Gen version launched last Spring, I wondered if they could retain all of that goodness that I fell in love with. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to get behind the wheel of one until this past week.
Visually, designers have kept the original’s dna intact. While the curves have softened somewhat, there is no mistaking the current body for anything other than the Matrix except for possibly it’s cousin from Pontiac, the Vibe. Sliding behind the wheel, many similarities from the original car remain. From the functional plastic cargo area with plenty of tie downs to the funky dash, the heritage is definitely evident. They’ve even kept the oh so deep looking nautical Blue Metallic paint that seems to bump the visual up by a few thousand dollars.
Our tester was a base model with the convenience package which ads air conditioning, power windows & locks, keyless entry, tire pressure monitor system, rear bumper protector and colour matched door handles. I was happy to see that the basic radio includes an Aux input jack for the ever present MP3 player. It amazes me that some manufacturers still don’t include this on their entry to mid level models. Let’s face it folks, the entry level buyer is more likely to be carrying an iPod than their parents are. The fabric on the seats seems to be a bit more utilitarian than I recall from the last model, though I’m sure the XR & XRS models are more swanky. Regardless, the seats are comfortable and the fabric looks like it would be almost as easy to clean as the durable cargo area.
For those who might be surprised that air conditioning is optional, perhaps I should explain a unique Canadian car shopper. The Quebecor. For some reason, unbeknown to us Ontarians, most automakers sell an absolute ton of cars sans air in Quebec. They even prefer wind up windows! I know, I don’t get it either.
Economy rather than performance is the order of the day and the 1.8l, 132 horsepower 4 cylinder in our tester did just fine in the economy department. During the combined city and highway Toronto commute, we managed to get 8l/100 km which might be the closest I’ve ever come to achieving the Government combined test rating of 7.2 in any vehicle I’ve tested. The 4 speed automatic was geared just about right for the combined commute so the engine was never spinning too fast. If a bit more go is your thing, then the 158 hp XR or XRS would be worth a look but this engine actually suited me just fine.
Along with eco friendliness, patriotism has taken a strong step to the forefront in many consumers buying decision of late and the Matrix is a winner here too. The Matrix is built exclusively at Toyota’s plant in Cambridge, Ontario so owners can feel good that they have supported their neighbours.
Overall, the 2010 Matrix performed perfectly for family life here in The Garage. Decent fuel economy, nice on road manners and utility beyond any of the competition still make for a solid choice for a family. I missed some of the edginess of the first generation, but the masses often prefer a slightly softer attitude and I think the masses will find the updated Matrix just right for their driveway.